Ontogenetic allometry, heterochrony, and interspecific differences in the skull of African apes, using tridimensional Procrustes analysis

Christine Berge, Xavier Penin
American Journal of Physical Anthropology 2004, 124 (2): 124-38
Ontogenetic studies of African ape skulls lead to an analysis of morphological differences in terms of allometry, heterochrony, and sexual dimorphism. The use of geometric morphometrics allows us 1) to define size and shape variations as independent factors (an essential but seldom respected condition for heterochrony), and 2) to calculate in percentage of shape changes and to graphically represent the parts of shape variation which are related to various biological phenomena: common allometry, intraspecific allometry, and allometric and nonallometric shape discrimination. Three tridimensional Procrustes analyses and the calculation of multivariate allometries, discriminant functions, and statistical tests are used to compare the skulls of 50 Pan troglodytes, and 50 Gorilla gorilla of different dental stages. The results both complement and modify classical results obtained from similar material but with different methods. Size and Scaling in Primate Morphology, New York: Plenum, p. 175-205). As previously described by Shea, the common growth allometric pattern is very important (64% of total shape variation). It corresponds to a larger increase of facial volume than of neurocranial volume, a more obliquely oriented foramen magnum, and a noticeable reshaping of the nuchal region (higher inion). However, the heterochronic interpretation based on common allometry is rather different from Shea. Gorillas differ from chimpanzees not only with a larger magnitude of allometric change (rate peramorphosis), as is classically said, but also grow more in size than in shape (size acceleration). In other words, for a similar stage of growth, gorillas have the size and shape corresponding to older chimpanzees, and for a similar shape, gorillas have a larger size than chimpanzees. In contrast, sexual dimorphism actually corresponds to allometric changes only, as classically demonstrated (time hypermorphosis). Sexual dimorphism is here significant in adult gorillas alone, and solely in terms of allometry (size-related shape and size, given that sagittal and nuchal crests are not taken into account). The study also permits us to differentiate two different shape variations that are classically confused in ontogenetic studies: a very small part of allometric shape change which is specific to each species (1% of the total shape variation), and nonallometric species-specific traits independent of growth (8% of total shape change). When calculated in terms of intraspecific allometries (including common allometry and noncommon allometry), shape changes are more extensive in gorillas (36% of total shape change) than in chimpanzees (29% of total shape change). The allometric differences mainly concern the inion, which becomes higher; the position of the foramen magnum, more dorsally oriented; and the palate, more tilted in adult gorillas than in adult chimpanzees. In contrast, nonallometric species-specific traits in gorillas are the long and flat vault characterized by a prominent occipital region, the higher and displaced backward glabella, and the protrusive nose. Biomechanical schemes built from shape partition suggest that the increased out-of-plumb position of the head during growth is partially compensated in gorillas by a powerful nuchal musculature due to the peculiar shape of the occipital region.

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